Read Time: 12 Minutes
Fact Checking the Debate
“[Obama-era EPA regulations were] driving energy prices through the sky.” Trump
Trump rolled back the Clean Power Plan, a set of Obama-era EPA regulations designed to curb planet-warming pollution from coal-fired power plants, by saying they were sending energy prices skyward. In fact, most of the Clean Power Plan was never implemented: it was temporarily halted by a 2016 Supreme Court order and never reinstated before the Trump administration effectively rolled it back last year.
“Take a look at what happened in Manhattan. Take a look at what happened in New Jersey. … They’re losing 30 and 40 percent. It’s a fraud.” Trump
Partly true and partly exaggerated
In New Jersey, four men, including a sitting city councilman, were charged this year with criminal conduct involving mail-in ballots in local elections in Paterson. The state attorney general accused them of attempting to collect hundreds of ballots and dropping them off in mailboxes; state law limits ballot collection to three per person.
Trump’s reference to irregularities in New York were exaggerated. Nearly 100,000 voters were sent defective ballots, apparently because of a printing error, elections officials acknowledged this week, but they said that new ballots would be mailed out.
“Today, there was a big problem. In Philadelphia, they went in to watch. They’re called poll watchers. It’s a very safe, a very nice thing. They were thrown out, they weren’t allowed to watch.” Trump
Trump supporters were told they were not allowed inside newly-opened satellite election offices on Tuesday because Philadelphia election law does not allow for poll watchers to come into satellite election offices, only polling locations. The Trump campaign also has no poll watchers registered in Philadelphia at the moment, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer.
“They’re sending millions of ballots all over the country. There’s fraud. They found them in creeks.” Trump
This is an apparent reference to a discovery last week by law enforcement officials of three trays of mail lying in a ditch alongside a highway in Greenville, Wisconsin. The mail — which appeared to have been headed to the post office — included “several” absentee ballots, according to Lt. Ryan Carpenter of the Outagamie County Sheriff’s Department. The sheriff’s department turned the mail over to inspectors from the United States Postal Service, who are investigating.
“Every year, I get the call. California is burning. California is burning. If that was cleaned, if you had forest management, you wouldn’t be getting those calls.” Trump
Trump’s response to Wallace’s question, “Do you believe that human pollution, gas and greenhouse gases, contribute to global warming?” was at odds with the scientific conclusions of the most recent United States National Climate Assessment reports, which are the most comprehensive and authoritative scientific assessment of the causes and impacts of climate change in the United States.
The 2017 assessment concludes decisively that humans are the dominant cause of the global temperature rise that has created the warmest period in the history of civilization. And it found that tangible impacts of climate change had already started to cause damage across the country — including increasing water scarcity in dry regions and more severe heat waves and wildfires.
While forest management is believed to play some role in wildfires, the 2018 National Climate Assessment drew direct links between climate change and worsening wildfires in the west. And it concluded that if greenhouse gas emissions from burning fossil fuels continue to increase at current rates, the frequency of severe fires in the west could triple.
“Excuse me, Portland, the sheriff just came out today and he said, ‘I support President Trump.’” Trump
Sheriff Mike Reese of Multnomah County, Oregon, where Portland is located, said he does not support Trump. “In tonight’s presidential debate the President said the ‘Portland Sheriff’ supports him. As the Multnomah County Sheriff I have never supported Donald Trump and will never support him,” Reeese tweeted.
“I want crystal clean water, and air. I want beautiful clean air. We have the lowest carbon. Look at our numbers now. We are doing phenomenal.” Trump
Trump’s administration has rolled back or weakened over 100 environmental laws and rules, among them an Obama-era clean-water regulation that had been designed to reduce pollution in the nation’s rivers, lakes, wetlands and other public bodies of water.
The administration has also significantly rolled back or weakened multiple Clean Air Act regulations designed to reduce pollution of both planet-warming greenhouse gases as well as soot and toxins from auto tailpipes, power plant smokestacks and oil and gas drilling sites. It is accurate that the United States’ carbon dioxide emissions have fallen slightly in recent years, but they are expected to increase in the coming years in part as a result of the Trump administration’s regulatory rollbacks.
“I’m OK with electric cars too. I’m all for electric cars. I have given big incentives for electric cars.” Trump
Trump offered his backing for electric cars as evidence that he cares about reducing carbon emissions. But the president has actually tried to do away with tax incentives for consumers who buy them.
In 2019, Trump’s budget called for eliminating a $7,500 tax credit for electric vehicles, which his administration said would save $2.5 billion over a decade.
In 2018, Trump also threatened to punish General Motors over its plan to cut jobs by dangling the possibility that he could end the federal tax credits that have helped underwrite that automaker’s electric-vehicle fleet.
“They want to take out the cows.” Trump
Trump was misleadingly referring to the Green New Deal, a proposal to combat climate change released by Representation Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York and Senator Edward J. Markey of Massachusetts. It is not Biden’s plan. Though the Green New Deal would significantly alter the transportation and agriculture sectors, it does not literally call for the elimination of cars, airplanes or cows.
Outside the text of the legislation, however, a blog post on Ms. Ocasio Cortez’s website describing the plan did note, “The Green New Deal sets a goal to get to net-zero, rather than zero emissions, at the end of this 10-year plan because we aren’t sure that we will be able to fully get rid of, for example, emissions from cows or air travel before then.” Her staff retracted the post and said that it was incomplete and published by accident.
“We left him a booming economy. And he caused the recession.” Biden
The economy was not “booming” in the final year of Biden’s time as vice president, and Trump did not “cause” the pandemic recession. When President Barack Obama and Biden left office, the economy was healthy, though growth had dipped below 2 percent in 2016 in part because of a contraction in business investment stemming in part from a plunge in oil prices rippling through America’s energy industry. Unemployment had fallen steadily.
“You know one of the reasons I’ll have so many judges? Because President Obama and him left me 128 judges to fill. They left 128 openings.” Trump
While it is true that Trump had vacancies to fill when he assumed the White House, the reason is not simply that former President Barack Obama “left” the positions vacant. The Republican-led Senate refused to confirm many of Obama’s judicial nominees, including Judge Merrick Garland, whom Obama named to fill the vacancy left by the death in February 2016 of Justice Antonin Scalia of the Supreme Court.
“His own former spokesperson said, you know, ‘Riots and chaos and violence help his cause.’ That’s what this is all about.” Biden
Trump’s former counselor, Kellyanne Conway, told Fox News in August that Trump would benefit politically from unrest in American cities.
“The more chaos and anarchy and vandalism and violence reigns, the better it is for the very clear choice on who’s best on public safety and law and order,” she said.
“Seattle, they heard we were coming in the following day and they put up their hands and we got back Seattle, Minneapolis. We got it back, Joe, because we believe in law and order.” Trump
Trump is taking undue credit for the relative calm that has settled in Minneapolis. Gov. Tim Walz of Minnesota activated the state’s National Guard on May 28, three days after George Floyd’s death.
Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan told the Washington Post that a conversation that Trump described “just never happened.”
“We have a higher deficit with China now than we did before.” Biden
The trade deficit with China fell sharply between 2018 and 2019 as Trump’s trade war suppressed commerce between the world’s largest economies.
So far this year, the trade deficit in goods with China is running below last year’s levels, as the United States imports fewer products. But while Trump has lowered the trade deficit with China, deficits with other countries have grown and the overall trade deficit is trending up.
American consumers have shifted to buying more goods from countries like Vietnam and Mexico, in part because Trump’s tariffs on $360 billion worth of Chinese goods have raised prices on those imports.
“The mayor of Moscow’s wife gave your son $3.5 million.” Trump
This claim is based on an investigative report released last week by Senate Republicans that claimed that Hunter Biden “had a financial relationship” with Elena Baturina, a wealthy Russian businesswoman and the widow of a former mayor of Moscow. The report based this claim on an unidentified “confidential document” showing that Ms. Baturina transferred $3.5 million in 2014 for “a Consultancy Agreement” to a bank account associated with a company called Rosemont Seneca Thornton, which was associated with Hunter Biden’s business partners.
Hunter Biden was not a co-founder of Rosemont Seneca Thornton, had no interest in it, and did not have a financial relationship with Ms. Baturina.
“I’ll have 25,000, 35,000, people show up at airports. We use airports.” Trump
Airport hangars cannot accommodate crowds of that size. While Trump’s rallies in the past have attracted tens of thousands of attendees, in recent weeks the rallies that he has been holding at airport hangers have been far smaller. According to local news reports this month, a rally at an airport in Virginia drew an estimated 3,000 people, an airport rally in Michigan drew an estimated 10,000 people and a rally in Pennsylvania drew an estimated 7,000 people. T
“They had the slowest recovery since — economic recovery — since 1929.” Trump
Trump is right that the growth rate of economic output as measured by gross domestic product was slower after the recession that spanned 2007 to 2009 than it had been following other contractions.
But that fact is misleading. Growth had been slowing for decades as the population aged and other long-run trends caused the economy’s potential run rate to decline. Growth did not pick up dramatically once Trump took office, aside from a short-lived jump on the back of his tax cuts.
“He’s going to be the first president of the United States to leave office having fewer jobs in his economy than when he became president.” Biden
Biden may be relying on the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ nonfarm payroll survey, which stretches back to the late 1930s, to arrive at this conclusion. But Herbert Hoover, who was president during the Great Depression, left office in 1933 at a time when the economy had fewer jobs than when he was elected in 1929, based on subsequent estimates. Biden’s statement also requires the unproven assumptions that Trump will lose the election, and that jobs will not bounce back to pre-crisis levels before November.
“We’ve had no negative effect and we’ve had 35-40,000 people.” Trump
Trump claimed his rallies have had “no negative effect” because of the coronavirus and that as many as 35,000 or 40,000 people have attended the events. Both are untrue, as is a separate claim that his rallies have all been held outdoors.
At least eight campaign staff members who helped plan President Trump’s indoor rally in June in Tulsa, Okla., including members of the Secret Service, tested positive for the coronavirus, either before the rally or after attending.
Trump’s rallies have generally attracted just several thousand people, not the tens of thousands he claimed. While the president’s campaign had claimed that more than 1 million people had sought tickets for the Oklahoma rally, the 19,000-seat arena was at least one-third empty during the rally. A second, outdoor venue for an overflow crowd at the same event was so sparsely attended that he and Vice President Mike Pence both canceled appearances there.
“They said it would take a miracle to bring back manufacturing. I brought back 700,000 jobs. They brought back nothing.” Trump
Trump did not “bring back” 700,000 manufacturing jobs, even before the coronavirus recession. In his first three years as president, manufacturing employment rose by just under 500,000 jobs. Through August, because of jobs lost to the pandemic recession, the sector is down by more than 200,000 jobs from when Trump took office.
“Young children aren’t. Even younger people aren’t.” Trump
Several studies have shown that children can get infected and harbor high levels of the coronavirus. And a small proportion of children seem to develop a condition called multisystem inflammatory syndrome, a severe and sometimes deadly overreaction of the immune system.
The debate on schools has mostly centered on whether children who are infected can transmit to others. The bulk of the evidence here suggests that children under 10 are about half as likely to spread the virus to others, but older children, particularly 15 and above, may transmit the coronavirus as efficiently as adults do. Teenagers are also about twice as likely as younger children to be infected with the coronavirus, according to a new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suggesting that high schools and colleges may be important contributors to community spread.
“I paid millions of dollars. Millions of dollars.” Trump
While Trump appears to have paid a variety of taxes in recent years, including payroll taxes for his employees, he has paid very little in federal income taxes, according to tax documents obtained by The New York Times.
They show that in 2017, for example, Trump chose to pay $750 in federal income taxes. That was the case even though he reported earning some $15 million for the year. But on his federal tax return, Trump offset those earnings by reporting losses from his businesses and claiming a range of tax credits, including one that allowed him to reduce his liability under the alternative minimum tax from $7.4 million to $750. It is unclear how his accountants chose that number: Trump appeared to have sufficient credits to reduce his liability to zero. That same year, Biden paid about $3.7 million in federal income tax, his returns show.
“He’ll close down the whole country.” Trump
Biden, who has stressed the importance of following scientific expertise in responding to the pandemic, is not promising to shut down the whole country.
In an interview with ABC News in August, Biden was pressed on what he would do “if the scientists say shut it down” and did respond, “I would shut it down. I would listen to the scientists.”
“Now we’re weeks away from a vaccine.” Trump
Top health officials have said that a vaccine may not be widely available until next summer. Dr. Moncef Slaoui, the top scientist on the administration’s vaccine development program, recently said that Americans would most likely not be widely vaccinated until the middle of 2021, a timeline echoed by Dr. Robert R. Redfield, the director of theCDC. Dr. Slaoui also said that the chance of having a vaccine by October or November was “extremely unlikely.”
Of the companies with vaccines in late-stage clinical trials in the United States, just one — Pfizer — has said that it could have initial results by the end of October, a time frame the company has clarified is a best-case scenario.
“H1N1. You were a disaster.” Trump
The CDC identified the first case of the H1N1 virus on April 14, 2009. The Obama administration declared swine flu a public health emergency on April 26. The FDA approved a rapid test for the virus two days later.
A vaccine became available in early October but, amid reports of shortages, President Obama declared the outbreak a national emergency later that month. The estimated death toll in the United States from the H1N1 epidemic was 12,469 from April 2009 to April 2010.
“Did you use the word ‘smart’? So you said you went to Delaware State but you forgot the name of your college.” Trump
Biden, at a campaign event in South Carolina last year, claimed that he “got started out” at Delaware State University, a historically Black university. Many in conservative media interpreted the comment as Biden claiming to have attended the university, when he attended the University of Delaware. But he was likely referring to the political support he received from the college when he first campaigned for Senate, as he has done in several other appearances.
In a September visit to North Carolina, Biden called Delaware State University “the best H.B.C.U. in America.” He noted that he began his political career after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr “and a lot of my support came out of that H.B.C.U.”
“I am a political product of Delaware State University, a great H.B.C.U.,” he said in May. “Delaware State University is the best. They’re the ones that brought me to the dance, they’re where I got started,” he said in March.
“I closed it, and you said, ‘He’s xenophobic.’ You don’t believe we should have closed the country.” Trump
Biden wrote on Twitter in March that “banning all travel from Europe — or any other part of the world — will not stop” the coronavirus, which critics seized on to argue that he was against imposing travel restrictions. A top Biden campaign official said in early April that Biden did support the Trump administration’s restrictions on travel from China.
Biden did accuse Trump of xenophobia. On the day the travel restrictions were announced by the administration, Biden said that “this is no time for Donald Trump’s record” of “hysterical xenophobia and fear-mongering to lead the way instead of science.” But he did not tie the accusation to the travel restrictions.
“I’m cutting drug prices, I’m going with favored nations which no president has the courage to do, because you’re going against big pharma. Drug prices will be coming down 80 percent. You could have done it in your 47 year period in government. Nobody’s done it.” Trump
Trump has signed four executive orders on drug prices, but none of them have gone into effect. The policy Trump described in the most detail, his “most favored nations” policy, will be difficult to implement without new legislation, and will be vulnerable to court challenges. And that policy would only influence the prices paid by the Medicare program for drugs, not the prices paid by Americans who buy their own health insurance or get it from their jobs.
“Your party wants to go socialist.” Trump
Trump was referring to Biden’s health care platform. The left wing of the Democratic Party has embraced Medicare for All, but Biden supports expanding the Affordable Care Act, which relies on the current system of private insurers. Biden would, however, favor adding a “public option” to the Affordable Care Act — a government run-program that would compete with private insurers.
“She thinks that the Affordable Care Act is not constitutional.” Biden
Judge Amy Coney Barrett, Trump’s nominee for the Supreme Court, has expressed reservations about the reasoning in Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr.’s opinion in 2012 upholding a central provision of the Affordable Care Act. But she has not expressed a view about the constitutionality of the entire law or about a challenge to it pending in the Supreme Court.
“He’s in the Supreme Court right now trying to get rid of the Affordable Care Act which will strip 20 million people from having insurance, health insurance.” Biden
Trump’s Justice Department is arguing in Supreme Court briefs that the entirety of the Affordable Care Act should be overturned. The effects of that reversal would be far-reaching. Biden’s estimate that 20 million more Americans would lose health insurance is accurate.
“Some of her biggest endorsers are very liberal people.” Trump
Judge Amy Coney Barrett, Trump’s nominee for the Supreme Court, has been endorsed by at least one prominent liberal, Noah Feldman, a law professor at Harvard. Many Democrats object to the process used to place her on the court without questioning her qualifications.